Public Relations As A Tool For Resolving Communal Dispute (A Case Study Of Andoni In Rivers State)

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Public Relations As A Tool For Resolving Communal Dispute (A Case Study Of Andoni In Rivers State)


The study sought to analyze public relations as a tool for resolving communal dispute using a case study of Andoni in Rivers State. Conflict is perceived in most parts of the world including, Nigeria as something abnormal, dysfunctional and therefore detestable. Yet conflict is a fact of life and could be a precursor of positive change. Every plural society is bond to experience one form of conflict or the other. What makes a society an ideal polity is the extent to which the conflict, interest and needs in a society are constructively managed so that violence does not threaten its continued existence. Conflict challenges the rational man to think of alternative ways of meeting contesting human needs and interests. Conflicts refer to contradictions arising from differences in the interests, ideas, ideologies, orientation and precipitous tendencies of the people concerned. These contradictions are inherent in all levels of social and economic interactions of human race. It may therefore exist at the individual, group, institutional, regional, national and international levels. Conflict is thus a pervasive phenomenon in human relationship and has been seen as the “basic unit for understanding social existence”.

Table of Content

Chapter One

1.0 Introduction

  • 1.1 Background to the Study
  • 1.2 Statement of the Problem
  • 1.3 Objectives of the Study
  • 1.4 Research Question
  • 1.5 Research Hypothesis
  • 1.6 Significance of the Study
  • 1.7 Scope of Study
  • 1.8 Limitation of the Study
  • 1.9 Definition of Terms
  • 1.10 Organisation of the Study

Chapter Two

2.0 Literature Review

  • 2.1 Conceptual Framework
  • 2.2 The Concept of Public Relations
  • 2.3 Conflict Management as a Function of Public Relations
  • 2.4 Role of Public Relation on Conflict Management
  • 2.4.1 Issues Management and Crisis Communication
  • 2.5 The Evolution of Modern Public Relations
  • 2.6 Public Relations Strategies for Conflict Management
  • 2.7 Rivers State in Historical Perspectives
  • 2.8 Rivers State and Trajectory of Conflicts
  • 2.9 Theoretical Framework
  • 2.9.1 The Social Atavistic Conflict Theory
  • 2.9.2 Social Responsibility Theory

Chapter Three

3.0 Research Methodology

  • 3.1 Research Design
  • 3.2 Population
  • 3.3 Method of Data Collection
  • 3.4 Method of Data Analysis

Chapter Four

4.0 Results and Discussion

  • 4.1 Public Relations Strategies that can be Used in Resolving the Andoni Communal Dispute
  • 4.2 Applying Framework on Government Use of Public Relations
  • 4.3 Managing Conflicts in Rivers State: The Involvement of the Legislature in Rivers State

Chapter Five

5.0 Summary, Conclusion and Recommendation

  • 5.1 Summary
  • 5.2 Conclusion
  • 5.3 Recommendation
  • References
  • Appendix

Chapter One

1.0 Introduction

1.1 Background to the Study

Public relations practices were introduced into Nigeria from Britain through the vehicle of colonialism. The introduction of public relations practice in Nigeria was done through the initiative of the colonial government and its obedient servants. Being and adjunct of journalism, public relations became an important element in public communication in the colonial days. The pioneers were already enjoying patronage of the people and those in government. The government felt the need for another branch of communication which would convey subtly, its feelings to the people without really going through the rigors of metal composition of communicative acts, during the Second World War (1940), the government urge for more channels of communication. It became more pronounced, especially in the need to present and analyze information about the war. This eventually led the government to establish an office of information.

The British decided to employ the tactics of public relations through mobile cinemas, posters, television programs. These programs were aimed at sensitizing Nigerians on what they were doing for the benefit of the nation as well as what the colonialist expected of Nigerians in return.

Since that time, public relations have been recognized as a profession in Nigeria and in other West Africa States. In 1949 United Africa Company became the first company to have public information unit. This is followed by the establishment of public relations unit by the Samuel Epelle served as the first public relations officer.

In 1963, the Nigerian institute of public relation (NIPR) was established as a regulatory body for PR practice in Nigeria.

The lack of adequate knowledge of public relations, as a career and the absence of its programs for understanding its practice hindered its growth in Nigerian organizations. Until recently when the Federal Republic of Nigeria promulgated Decree No. 16 of June, 1990 which upheld the practice of public relations in Nigeria.

Peace is simply a state of mutual harmony between people or groups especially in personal relations. Gandhi once said “there is no way to peace, peace is the way”. Every person on earth must take responsibility for their lives and contribute to the building of a ‘world of peace’ where people of different cultures can live in peace and harmony with one another. It is therefore imperative that, the human spirit should be transformed and trained to a culture of non-violence. Common respect of everyone’s lifestyle is therefore the basis towards universal harmony. Hence, the pre-condition to national, regional or world peace, is for people to really learn about each other, understand and appreciate each other’s culture and tradition (Gangopadhyay, 2010a; Ukpere, Michael &Ajoku, 2012).

The absent of conflict is a reflection that there is relative peace. Sustainable peace is the right panacea to sustainable development. It is on this ground that the United Nations in its several deliberations at both the General Assembly and special security sections of the Security Council, have always emphasize the need for nations of the world to respect the dignity of the human life by shunning violence and upholding the tenace of democracy, human rights, peace and culture of non-violence. In 2001, the General Assembly by unanimous vote adopted Resolution 55/282 which established 21 September as an annual day of non-violence and cease-fire popularly known as World Peace Day. The UN invites all nations and people to honour a cessation of hostilities during the Day and to other wise commemorate the Day through education and public awareness on issues of peace. To inaugurate the Day, the “Peace Bell” is rung at the UN headquarters in New York (UNO, 2011).

Across the globe, the very factors that often cause conflicts are different and sometimes similar. This spatial variation is a function of differences in culture, employment and unemployment levels, access to the use of the resources of the land (common wealth), the political fragmentations of the various units, the will power and specific strategies in resolving disputes. Others are political interests and supremacy struggles, absent of equity and justice in developmental strives, level of access to basic amenities and quality of social services rendered such as environmental sanitation across different segments of the area. Hence, conflicts are inevitable in human organizations or society because of spatial differences, spatial behaviours and spatial interactions as well as spatial aspirations.

Unresolved ‘perceived threats’, mistrust and spatial inequalities in development are responsible for the spatio-temporal occurrences of conflicts across the globe especially in Nigeria and in particular, Rivers state. Examples of such conflicts in world history are the internal strife in South Africa, the Communist aggression in Afghanistan, the Al-Qadar challenge, the American-Russian cold war, Southern Sudan struggles and the Darfur conflicts, the Hutus and Bantus struggles in Rwanda and Botswana, the Maasai struggle and Land protests in Kenya and Tanzania, the Los Angeles Watts Riots of 1965 and 1992, the uprising across the Middle East and North Africa, the Mau Mau suppression struggles in Kenya during the late 1960s and early 1970s, the Idi Amin’s suppression of the Acholi and Lango ethnic nationalities in Uganda in the early 1970s (Kurtz, 2008; Ukpere, et. al 2012; the Africana, 2003; Fishburn,2012).

Most time, the very issues in a conflict are never treated and are allowed to fester for too long. In Nigeria, we have the Nigerian Civil War (1967-1970), the post 1993 presidential election crises, resource control and the Minority quest, the Odua People’s Congress (OPC) and MASSOB insurgencies, the incessant Fulani herdsmen and farmers clashes in Plateau, Benue, Kogi, Nasarawa states which is fast spreading to other states, Niger Delta militants attacks, kidnapping, cult rivalry and reappraisal attacks. Others are the post 2011 presidential election uprising, the Boko Haram insurgency and acts of terrorism, the anti-fuel subsidy labour unrest, the Aso Rock villa cabal syndrome and the 2009/10 YarAdua Orchestra, and the series of politically motivated crises in Rivers state.

1.2 Statement Of the Problem

Public relations is a concept that is concerned with building mutual understanding between and entity and its publics. It involves giving information that are factual and taking both preventive and corrective measures that will building sustaining relationship between an institution and its various publics. Harvey (2016) citing Seital, (2011 P.37) defines Public relations as information given to the public, persuasion directed at the public to modify attitudes and actions, and efforts to integrate attitudes and actions of an institution with its publics and of public with those of the institution. This definition goes a step further by not limiting public relations to organisation‘s communications management, rather uses the term institution which can apply to both and organisation and government institutions. Ugwuanyi and Odigbo (2012) added that common activities of public relations include speaking at conferences, working with the media, crisis communications, social media engagement and employee communication. Almost any organization or country that has a stake in how it is portrayed in the public arena employs some level of public relations.

Mankind has suffered from conflicts and crises the world over. From Europe to Asia, from Australia to America, from Caribbean to Africa the story is the same. In Africa today, many countries are engulfed in unprecedented armed conflicts, ethno- cultural, ideological and religious differences which have led most African countries into crises and conflicts since independence thereby making most of these African states seem perpetual war zones. Conflict constitutes one of the major recurring problems bedeviling the socio-economic and political landscape in Africa and Nigeria in particular. Achieving total conflict resolution has become a difficult task for developing nations, in spite of efforts by development experts to bring about desired development. The term “conflict resolution and sustainable development” was brought into common use by the World Commission on Environment Development (WECD) in its 1987 seminar report entitled “our common future”.

Nigeria for instance, has witnessed numerous communal conflicts such as Zango-Kataf crisis in Kaduna state (1999-2001), Tiv-Jukun crisis in Taraba state (1999-2001), Ife-Modakeke in Osun state (1999-2000), Eleme-Okrika crisis, Itsekiri-Urhobo crisis (1999-2000), Itsekiri-Ijaw crisis, Aguleri-Umuleri conflict in Anambra state (1995-1999), Umuode-Oruku conflict, the Igbo-Ikom conflict in Cross-river state and the Ezillo-EzzaEzillo of Ebonyi state which this study seeks to look into.(Onwe, et al 2015).

These conflicts have caused irreparable, immeasurable and irreversible calamities, the cumulative negative effect of which are; loss of millions of human lives, wanton destruction of property worth millions of naira, displacement/dislocation of inhabitants making them homeless or refugees in other land, halting of commercial activities and developments, and creating permanent enemies. Besides, experience has shown that communal conflicts creates room for tension, hostility, lack of trust, overreactions and other problems associated with social frictions. The Andoni communal conflict has shown how communal co-existence could be ruptured with attendant disastrous consequence on the social, cultural and political life of the people, hence, the need for this study on public relations as a tool for resolving communal dispute using a case study of Andoni in Rivers State.

1.3 Objectives of the Study

The aim of this study is to analyze public relations as a tool for resolving communal dispute using a case study of Andoni in Rivers State.

Specifically, the objectives of the study include to;

  1. To ascertain communal dispute management as a function of Public Relations
  2. To find out whether Public Relations play a vital role in communal dispute resolution in Andoni, Rivers State
  3. To determine public relations strategies that can be used in resolving communal dispute

1.4 Research Question

The following research questions are formulated to guide this research:

  1. Is communal dispute management a function of Public Relations?
  2. Does Public Relations play a vital role in communal dispute resolution in Andoni, Rivers State?
  3. What are the public relations strategies that can be used in resolving communal dispute?

1.5 Research Hypothesis

  • HO1 There is no significant relationship between Public Relations and communal dispute resolution in Andoni, Rivers State
  • HA1 There is a significant relationship between Public Relations and communal dispute resolution in Andoni, Rivers State

1.6 Significance of the Study

Public relations creates an understanding through effective communication between the organization and the public. The findings of this study will be of immense benefit to government authorities, corporate bodies and community management and the public, which will help in minimize conflicts and disputes in these areas.The study also gave an insight into the problem and practices of public relations in Nigerian communities.

This study by its objectives will not only assess the effectiveness of public relations for communal dispute resolution, but as its application and uses generally, therefore, when successfully carried out and documented, this study will save as a source of relevant information to many institution and organizations on the ways of using public relation and its importance.

Finally, public relation practitioners have been deprived of excellent performance in their operations because of shanty and insufficient data and in-adequate literariness availability in this area. This study when successfully completed and adequately supervised will be an addition to the essential literature needed in public relations, a vital areas of marketing communication public relations practitioners and consultants will therefore use it extensively for reference. Based on forgoing, it become, indisputable that the need for this study is worthwhile.

1.7 Scope of Study

This study was carried out to analyze public relations as a tool for resolving communal dispute using a case study of Andoni in Rivers State. The study was limited to Andoni, which is a Local Government Area in Rivers State, Nigeria. Its headquarters is at Ngo Town.

1.8 Limitation of the Study

Access to information relevant to the study was the major difficulty the researcher encountered during the data collection. Certain stakeholders were reluctant to grant the researcher interview and others who did were not forthcoming with the information. However there were others who were more than willing and provided adequate information that was needed for the work.

Another limitation has to do with time. The researcher did not have enough time to undertake the research since she had to meet a deadline. This notwithstanding the researcher was able to make proper use of the limited time therefore the quality of the work was not affected. The case study strategy which was used for this study is also not in the conventional sense, generalizable. However, it facilitated a detailed and in depth understanding of the study.

1.9 Definition of Terms

Public Relations:

Public relations is the practice of managing and disseminating information from an individual or an organization to the public in order to affect their public perception. Public relations and publicity differ in that PR is controlled internally, whereas publicity is not controlled and contributed by external parties.

Communal Dispute:

Is defined in this study as a conflict between non-state groups that are organized along a shared communal identity. Conflict refers to the fact that the parties want to gain control over some disputed and perceived indivisible resource, such as a piece of land or local political power.

Dispute Resolution:

Dispute resolution or dispute settlement is the process of resolving disputes between parties. The term dispute resolution is sometimes used interchangeably with conflict resolution, although conflicts are generally more deep-rooted and lengthy than disputes.

1.10 Organisation of the Study

This study is organized into five chapters. Chapter one included the background of the study, research problem, research objectives and questions as well as limitation of the study. Chapter two contains the literature review. Chapter three includes the methodology and study area. Chapter Four contains the results and discussion of key findings of the study. Chapter Five finally looks at the summary, conclusions, and recommendations based on the findings.

Chapter Five

5.0 Summary, Conclusion and Recommendation

5.1 Summary

The aim of this thesis was to analyze public relations as a tool for resolving communal dispute using a case study of Andoni in Rivers State. In view of the analysis of the data collected in the course of the study, the following findings were made.

  1. The study has established that Public Relations strategies like negotiation, mediation, inquiry, conciliation, arbitration, mass media, public opinion, propaganda devices can be effective in the resolution of the communal conflict compared to the fire-brigade approach by the previous government and security agents.
  2. The government has made effective use of these PR strategies in restoring peace and tranquility in the volatile community, through the peace committee inaugurated to see that peace is restored in Andoni.
  3. The conflict affected sustainability of developmental efforts of the state government. The conflict led to the destruction of lives and properties especially government institutions. Schools were affected and the regional water scheme was also affected. No meaningful sustainable development can take place when there are no schools and an enabling environment.

5.2 Conclusion

The study has x-rayed the application of public relations strategies in the resolution of communal conflicts with Andoni LGA, Rivers state in focus. Despite clarion calls by different individuals, groups and government for cessation of communal conflicts in Nigeria, it is rather becoming endemic. Public relations strategies should therefore be used to resolve conflicts quickly and appropriately so that it will not result in ugly consequences. It can therefore be said that conflict is inherent in man. That is why the researcher’s theoretical framework of analysis has shown that there is a natural tendency on the part of creature to migrate, expand and dominate space or territory using any means possible-peace or through the use of force. The above factors have been the major causes of communal conflicts in Africa in general and Nigeria in particular. One common feature of these conflicts has to do with their confrontational and violence dimension which led to loss of lives and properties of people who hitherto lived in relative harmony. No meaningful development can be achieved in an environment where people cannot sleep with their eyes closed. Government cannot comfortably administer development in such an area. With all these, there will be promotion of peace and harmonious coexistence among Nigerian communities and by extension usher in healthy development and progress in the country in particular and the world in general.

5.3 Recommendation

From the findings and conclusions, the following recommendations are made;

  1. Public relations strategies that is, participatory or people-driven approach to conflict resolution should be adopted. The participatory approach to conflict resolution is no doubt an invaluable tool which would enable a wide cross-section of people share information and opinion about their lives and environment. People (the youth, the church, women and elders) who under normal circumstances are voiceless and powerless in the community are powered to gain confidence and to speak out. The face-to-face which it provides, creates the opportunity for policy makers to gain an understanding of the issue at stake and to develop community trust and confidence for the government and its interventions.
  2. Those who lost lives and properties in the conflict should be compensated. Though no amount of money or other resources can equate life but it should serve as commitment to building a lasting peace in the area. Public properties such as primary and secondary schools, medical centers, markets should be rebuilt and employment and scholarship be provided for the youths.
  3. Enlightenment campaign should be encouraged and extended to the communities on the need to embrace peace at all times and why the rule of law should be observed in dealing with contentious issues. The campaign team will constitute representatives of the governments and the communities especially those who have been adequately counseled to accept the realities of the situations.
  4. Robust and vibrant social communication model should be put in place to bridge the current socio- cultural and communication gaps noticeable in the area. This could be through the activation of social networks such as clubs membership, sports etc.

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